The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: BLACK GENEALOGY by Kiki Petrosino

Great storms shook Old Master’s house
several times in a week. The land shone, then
incessant, bright & awful—we thought
the spirits of our dead mothers had finally
crossed the sea. Old Master’s babies died
as great storms shook his house. Dishes
broke. Drawers opened. We watched
our dead mothers pull out baby clothes—
incessant, bright & awful, we thought
as they shredded with their wet hands
the lace bibs Old Master’s wife had stitched
while great storms shook the house.
Then Old Master’s wife ordered us
to rip the stays from her gowns. She walked
incessant, bright & awful. We thought
she’d walk into the earth. We had to feed
her babies with our milk before they died
incessant, bright & awful. The land shone
on the great house. Our dead swarmed.

This selection comes from the collection Black Genealogy, available from Brain Mill Press. Order your copy here. Our curator for December is Krista Cox.

Kiki Petrosino is the author of three collections with Sarabande Books: Fort Red Border (2009), Hymn for the Black Terrific (2013), and Witch Wife (forthcoming, Dec. 2017). Witch Wife has received positive advance industry press, including a starred review from Publishers Weekly and inclusion on The Millions’s list of must-read poetry for December. Petrosino holds degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Her poems have appeared in the New York Times, Best American Poetry, Poetry magazine, and elsewhere.

Krista Cox is a paralegal and poet living in northern Indiana. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pittsburgh Poetry Review, The Indianola Review, Whale Road Review, and Pirene’s Fountain, among other places in print and online. She twice received the Lester M. Wolfson Student Award in Poetry, and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. In her abundant spare time, Krista parents, paints, and plans community events as the Program Director of Lit Literary Collective. Learn more than you ever wanted to know about her at


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